“…for the rights of my Country.”

A History of the

 

          

Background and Introduction

           

An Army is not merely a large aggregation of men with guns in their hands. To make an army, you must have men and you must have guns, but there is an additional, intangible ingredient which is the deciding factor in its success or failure. An army has a personality. It has a character of its own, totally aside from the character of the individuals who compose it.

Stanley F. Horn, The Army of Tennessee [1]

            Representing a microcosm of the army of which it is the basic building block, the Civil War regiment also epitomizes these words of Stanley Horn.  Although there existed, of course, famous brigades, divisions, and even corps, the individual Confederate fighting man always identified most closely with his regiment.  This is the story of one such regiment, the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, that served in the Army of Northern Virginia.  It fought in most of the Virginia army’s major battles, being detached and absent only at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  The 2nd Mississippi met its final demise a week before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox when it was overwhelmed by the Federal breakthrough of the Petersburg defenses on April 2, 1865 along the banks of a stream called Hatcher’s Run (see Figure 1 for a graphical history timeline).

            Although the regiment has a character of its own, apart from the individuals who comprise its ranks, the characteristics of those individuals are important to gain a full understanding of its history.  Just who were the individuals who flocked to the banner of the 2nd Mississippi?  Unfortunately for historians, the men of the regiment were apparently of the belief that “actions speak louder than words.”  Primary source material is scarce.  For a variety of reasons, not even one regimental “after action” report is included in the Official Records, [2] and references to the regiment in other regimental, brigade and divisional reports, Confederate or Federal, are few and scattered.  Unlike its “sister” regiment, the Eleventh Mississippi, the Second did not include a company composed mainly of college students like the University Greys. [3]   Had such been the case, more written source material might now be available to help reconstruct the regiment’s historical record.

Four Counties of Northeast Mississippi as Existed Prior to Civil War             Within these limitations then, the principal materials utilized in this paper in an attempt to gain some insight into the makeup of the regiment consisted, to a large extent, of the surviving individual Compiled Military Service Records obtained on microfilm from the National Archives. [4]   From these thirteen rolls of microfilm, more than 2,800 names were obtained. Of these names, however, only 1,883 individuals were identified (the rest of the names were AKA’s for these same individuals).  Some individuals were identified only by Federal prisoner of war records, and it became obvious that several of these are misidentified.  For example, there was also a 2nd Mississippi Cavalry Regiment, a 2nd Mississippi Infantry Battalion, and a 2nd Missouri Infantry Regiment, which were sometimes incorrectly identified, in the Federal records because of identical abbreviations in the record “headers.” Some of these therefore ended up in the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment records (as an example, “2 Miss” as a record header is not a unique unit abbreviation unless additional details are available for clarification).  Where possible, these mistakes were noted in the “comments” section of the complete roster summaries in Appendix D.  However, these types of errors were relatively few in number so a good estimate for the total number of men who actually served in the regiment (or its precursor state companies) at some point in time probably lies between 1,750-1,800 individuals. [5]

                After Mississippi seceded from the Union and began to raise companies of state troops, the men from the then four counties of northeast Mississippi – Tishomingo, Tippah, Itawamba and Pontotoc – began enrolling in February and March of 1861. [6]   These companies would initially be assigned to the Second Regiment, Mott’s Brigade, State Army of Mississippi.  Once they became part of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, the independent companies were assigned letters as follows:

A – Tishomingo Riflemen, Tishomingo County

B – O’Connor Rifles, Tippah County

C – Town Creek Riflemen, Itawamba County

D – Joe Matthews Rifles (or Beck Rifles), Tippah County

E – Calhoun Rifles, Itawamba County

F – Magnolia Rifles, Tippah County

G – Pontotoc Minute Men, Pontotoc County

H – Coonewah Rifles, Pontotoc County

I – Cherry Creek Rifles, Pontotoc County

K – Iuka Rifles, Tishomingo County

L – Liberty Guards, Tippah County [7]

                It should come as no great surprise that the compiled service records show that most of the men identified themselves as farmers or planters. [8]   Unfortunately, this categorization does not necessarily allow this occupation to be classified under the “skilled,” more or less “semiskilled,” or “unskilled” breakdown as has been done in some other recent regimental studies. [9]   In order to successfully do this, the service records would need to be correlated with census data (especially property value and slave ownership) since the term “farmer” could encompass several social classes ranging from farm laborer all the way to plantation owner.

            Of the 1,883 individual records, occupations were identified for 1,422 (75.5%) of them.  Of these, almost 64% identified themselves as farmers.  If “planters” are included in the same category – which should probably be the case – nearly 70% of the records would be included in this occupational group.  The next most numerous categories included “clerk” at 4.4%, “student” at 3.5%, “carpenter” at 3.2%, “laborer” at 3.0%, “mechanic” (sometimes used interchangeably with carpenter) at 2.6%, “merchant” at 2.1%, “teacher” at 1.8%, “blacksmith” at 1.1%, and “physician” at 1.1%.

Statistical Age Distribution within 2nd Mississippi             The mean (average) and median [10] ages were obtained from an analysis of 1,511 (80.2%) of the 1,883 individual records.  The mean age was found to be 24.8 while the median age was 23.  It should be noted that these numbers include both the “early” volunteers, and those recruits who signed up in the spring of 1862 under the implicit threat of the recently enacted Confederate Conscription Act.  If these groups are taken separately, the one-year volunteers’ (1,043 valid cases) mean age was 24.6 while the median was 23.  The later three-year recruits’ (452 valid cases) mean age was somewhat older at 25.2, but the median age remained at 23 (see Figure 3).

            Of interest is the plot of mean age versus company shown in Figure 4.  Note especially Company L (the eleventh company) which was composed entirely of men recruited in the spring of 1862 from Tippah County.  The mean age of the men in this company, at almost 27.5 years old, is significantly higher than that of the regiment taken as a whole, or even the group of later three-year recruits as a whole.  An examination of the marital status of these groups also shows that the later recruits tended to have a higher percentage of married men, and this was especially true of Company L (reporting of marital status was rare).Average Age vs Company

            In discussing potential differences in the group of early volunteers versus the later three-year recruits, refer to Figure 5.  It becomes quite apparent that there were really only two significant time periods of heavy enrollment.  The first was during the late April and early May 1861 period, just prior to the regiment being mustered into Confederate service (May 10, 1861).  The second period was the mid-February to mid-March 1862 time frame.  It was during this time that Company L was added and most of the regiment’s original ten companies also recruited heavily.  In fact, based on the available service records (1,690 valid records of 1,883 individuals), fully 60.7% of the regiment’s cumulative strength was enrolled prior to muster into Confederate service at Lynchburg, Virginia.  By the end of November 1861, the total enrollment had reached 69.6% of its final tally.  During the spring 1862 recruiting period (February 20-March 24, 1862), the number jumped to 97.9% of the final total.  Only a handful of new recruits were added after this date, the last joining the regiment on September 1, 1864.

Total Enrollment Histogram            Another interesting aspect of the makeup of the 2nd Mississippi is the place of birth of its members.  Surprisingly, of the 983 records (52.2%) that provided place of birth information, only 25.3% listed Mississippi.  22.3% gave Alabama; 19.5% listed Tennessee; 13.8% South Carolina; 7.6% Georgia; 4.5% North Carolina; 2.0% Virginia; and 1.5% Ireland.  These numbers are illustrated in the histogram below (Figure 6).

            An intriguing question is raised from an examination of the average and median age of members of the regiment, grouped by place of birth.  On performing the basic statistical analysis, the plot (Figure 7) is obtained.

            Of note here is the mean age for the members of the regiment born in Mississippi.  At only 20.5 years of age, it is far below the overall mean of 24.6.  Also, the median age for Place of Birth Statisticsthis group is only 20 years of age!  As a matter of fact, if the native-born Mississippians are excluded from the age statistics, the mean age for the remainder of the regiment jumps to 26.7 and the median to 25 years of age.  At first, this appeared to be some sort of mistake in the analysis or an anomaly in the data from the compiled service records.  However, with some additional research into the early history of northeastern Mississippi, a plausible explanation was found.

            Prior to 1832, the northeastern part of the state belonged to the Chickasaw Nation.  On October 20, 1832, the Chickasaws signed the Treaty of Pontotoc which ceded their territory to the state of Mississippi and provided for Chickasaw relocation in the West.  However, it was 1837 before tribal leaders made a final decision on where to relocate.  Throughout this period, white settlers had been unlawfully settling on Chickasaw lands.  By the early 1840’s, most of the Chickasaws had been relocated, and the influx of new settlers increased with the Average Age vs Place of Birthorganization of nine counties from the former Indian lands.  Thus, it could be said that most of the military aged residents who were native born within Tishomingo, Tippah, Pontotoc, and Itawamba counties, would have been born no earlier than the late 1830’s to early 1840’s.  This would explain the age variation when compared with the older “pioneer settlers” from Tennessee, Alabama, the Carolinas, and Georgia. [11]

            Although a much more exhaustive statistical analysis could be carried out on compiled service record data, for the purposes of this paper, a presentation of some of more important descriptive statistics was felt to be sufficient.  Additional analysis is planned for the “book-length” version of the regimental history in the future.

            A final example of a descriptive statistic that might be of interest is a plot of the average age versus the enrollment rank of the individual.  Of course, individuals were promoted throughout the existence of the regiment, but the age of selected officers and NCO’s at the regiment’s formation might provide some useful insights.

           The average age of the regiment’s members, overall, has previously been discussed.  As might be expected, the large number of privates tends to drive the average age of the entire regiment downward.  Corporals, however, averaged more than 27 Average Age vs Rankyears of age, and sergeants, 29.  For 3rd Lieutenants, we find the average age again drops to 26.  2nd Lieutenants are older at almost 30.  1st Lieutenants push the scales a bit higher to almost 31.  Interestingly, the Captains averaged more than 37 years of age, while the field grade officers averaged only 31.5 (see Figure 8).

            This brief introduction with some statistical information from the compiled service records probably provides no “earth-shattering” insights into the makeup of the regiment or the motivating factors of the individuals who joined the 2nd Mississippi.  However, hopefully it will help provide, even to a small degree, a somewhat better understanding of their regiment from its creation to its ultimate destruction almost four years later.


 
 
 

[1] Stanley F. Horn, The Army of Tennessee (Norman, OK, 1993), p. XI.

[2] U.S. War Department, War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1880-1901), Series I, vol. 2, p. 868-869, hereinafter cited as O.R.  All cites are to Series I unless otherwise noted.

[3] Steven R. Davis, “‘...Like Leaves in an Autumn Wind’: The 11th Mississippi Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia,” Civil War Regiments: A Journal of the American Civil War 2, no. 4 (1992), p. 270.

[4] Compiled Military Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who served in the 2nd Mississippi, National Archives Microfilm Pub. M268, rolls 111-123.  Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Service, 1959, hereinafter cited as CMSR.

[5] CMSR.

[6] Following the Civil War, the four original northeastern counties were partitioned into several additional ones.

[7] Dunbar Rowland, Military History of Mississippi (Spartanburg, 1978), pp. 40-43.  It should be noted that Company L, the eleventh company, was not organized until March 5, 1862 and did not join the regiment, then at Fredericksburg, until April 6, 1862.  In trying to analyze specific regimental actions, an eleventh company complicates matters somewhat.  The “standard” formation for the companies of a regiment when forming a battle line is a two-line arrangement for each company with the companies deployed in the following manner (as viewed from the rear of the regiment, left to right): B, G, K, E, H, C, I, D, F, A.  With the addition of Company L, by following the preceding deployment logic, the arrangement should be B, G, K, E, H, C, I, D, L, F, A.  Thus, it is assumed that Company L is normally deployed with the right wing of the regiment between Companies D and F.

[8] CMSR.  Upon closer examination, it was found that there was no real distinction between the two terms as used in the compiled service records.

[9] Edward J. Hagerty, Collis’ Zouaves: The 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War (Baton Rouge, 1997), pp. 78-79.

[10] Where the spread in the data can be large, the median is statistically a more “robust” measure of central tendency than is the mean, which can be skewed by one or more “outlier” data points.

[11] A Concise History of Early Itawamba County, Itawamba County GenWeb Internet site, 1998.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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